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Taxes and death – the two inevitables

Death is an uncomfortable topic that no one wants to talk about. As a result, important information may not be relayed, inevitably resulting in delays in the winding up of estates as well as unnecessary stress, penalties and interest.

The importance of this was highlighted earlier this year when a client was referred to us by Chartered Legacy & Trust. She had been appointed as the executor of her parents’ estate. In 2012 her Mom passed away. Her parents were married in community of property. For tax purposes, this in itself is a difficult return to complete as income is split between each spouse. Her father passed away in 2016. When she started collecting information needed for compiling the Liquidation and Distribution Account, she discovered that her father had not submitted tax returns to SARS since February 2001.

For an estate to be finalised, all taxes need to be up to date, and what followed was countless hours spent digging
through boxes, standing in queues at banks, and endless administration to try and submit his tax returns up until his
date of death.

We finally managed to get up to date with her father’s tax; however, she highlighted some important lessons from her
experience as executor of her parents’ estate.

  • Unless you have the required experience and knowledge, don’t accept the role of executor without understanding what it fully entails and knowing who the administrators will be.
  • Don’t accept the role of executor without having some idea of the full picture of the person’s assets and liabilities and how you can get that picture and access documents, statements and details of investments on the person’s death.
  • Please have a good understanding of the family situation (e.g. your role vis-à-vis some children) and realise what it means, as the estate may be wound up, but these responsibilities will probably stay with you.

Tax Planning is an integral part of the RetiremeantTM Planning process. Chartered Tax’s experienced in-house team of Tax Specialists and Accountants nurture ongoing relationships with our clients and meet with them several times a year. In her experience, she found it was critical to partner with companies that work together between tax and estate administration, as any unreconciled item between the two will cause lengthy delays. She also reiterates the importance of partnering with practically-orientated companies to develop a relationship of mutual trust.

We encourage clients to start having these uncomfortable conversations around death and how to gain access to files,
tax and financial information. Staying up to date with tax returns is vital to avoid ending up in a similar situation.

If you need any assistance in getting your tax affairs in order, please get in touch with your RetiremeantTM Specialist or Tax Advisor.